This book spoke to me on so many levels. It was a true feminist look at from the point of view of someone who some many women can relate to at this very moment. She’s constantly looking for stable work, living on her last pennies, and trying to achieve her dreams all while trying to keep a straight head on her shoulders. What I think many women who work in any kind of service industry can also relate to is the casual sexism the women in the story experience on a daily basis. Their feeling of triumph when they catch the small minded men that they are worth more than “little lady” or “good girl” and that ultimately progression is only going to benefit society, rather than taint it’s “morals”.
If you’re a history buff this book is perfect for you. You genuinely feel like you’re running wild on the streets of London, and weaving in and out of the bustling halls of the BBC.
The character growth of Maisie is masterful to say the least. I think it’s fair to say that a woman growing up in the early 20th century, and in some cases even today, has certain “feminine” expectations ingrained in her before she hones into her own desires and ambitions. She starts small, still trying to find her own footing, but with each stand she makes for herself, or for her fellow female co-workers you feel a sense of pride and a silent “go Maisie!” sneak out from your mouth before you even realize.
Stratford’s ability to work this historical vote into the book was also very poignant. Maybe because I’m reading this book during one of the worst voting seasons I’ve ever experienced as an adult, but my own appreciation for all the women that lost their lives, family, and status for the sake of us future generations soared immensely. I easily take for granted the fact that I can read any book I want, work anywhere I want, choose to vote or not vote, have an opinion heard, much less run my own blog is all due to women putting forth unimagined struggle before me. This isn’t to say that I don’t experience sexism on a day to day basis, because I, like most women in the world, do. It’s also not to say that there still in a lot of work to do for those future generations before us regarding equal pay and equal recognition in male dominated fields, but you cannot deny how far we’ve come on a whole.
As of late I haven’t found a book that had me up reading into the early hours of the morning for a long while now, but I had a certain feeling about Radio Girls. I found it while lolly-gagging around Target the other day and liked the synopsis enough to give it a go. Oh boy. I was not prepared. The first chapter, while short, instantly hooks you in. You know you’re desperate to find out why a woman is being chased down the streets of London and what secrets she’s discovered push her forward. I really enjoyed Stratford's descriptions of Maisie’s internal thoughts. I could instantly relate to her demeanor and the struggles she has as a poor, mostly unemployed mid-20 year old. She echoed so many of my past fears: how am I going to pay for food, what will fill me up for the day, how to mend broken clothes over and over again. I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve spoken about it before, but we’re currently in a time when even small wages can separate someone from complete desperation and survival. I remember dumpster diving for food in San Francisco when my monthly school funds were spent entirely on transportation and art supplies. I knew what it felt like to be able to sleep somewhere warm for a few hours, or the difference between starving, and the acclimated numbness that comes after the feeling of starving. I also could relate to Maisie’s pure relief and joy when she finally landed a job at the BBC, and being able to finally afford proper food and clothes. There’s a feeling I can’t really put into words that you can only really understand if you’ve been in that situation. There’s a silence within yourself that cracks at every freely purchased necessity you were once denied. Necessities no longer feel like luxury. It’s almost intoxicating. I remember my first paycheck after finally landing a decent job. I had been living on $0.88 pot pies and milk for the past few weeks, along with whatever food I could find in a dumpster behind a Trader Joe’s, but with that paycheck I went to the local deli and bought the biggest sandwich I’d seen in a while and a soda. I felt like a damn queen. I felt exactly the way Maisie felt when she first sunk her teeth into a hot meat pie. It’s a type of satisfaction and relief that’s almost indescribable.
Besides Maisie, Stratford has brought in some incredible historical figures as well. Most notably the ever incredible Hilda Matheson. She was a force to be reckoned with. A true seeker of truth, and someone who is singlehandedly responsible for shaping broadcast from the very beginning. While Radio Girls is a work of fiction, there are plenty of real historical events and facts that play a role in this story. For Matheson’s role in espionage with MI5, to the growing Fascism within Europe. A casual mention of the Nazi Party and an angry fellow named Adolf Hitler is mentioned in this story, and as a reader you can help but wanting to yell, BAD TIMES AHEAD. Without giving too much away, Radio Girls is a slightly sensational story of a mousey girl who finds herself not only through the ever industrialist 1920s London, but through exciting espionage and the power of knowledge.
Stratford also introduced a whole cast of recognizable writers and politicians at the time. As well as some major players in the buildup to World World II.
I couldn’t recommend this book enough. Please pick it up and let me know what you think. Reach out to the author through twitter! She’s quite lovely!